This briefing note is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

Children's rights: partnerships with TCCR and the Southbank Centre announced
Barbara Reeves
29 September 2014

Children's rights: partnerships with TCCR and the Southbank Centre announced

Having children is both a joy and an enormous responsibility.  Parenthood requires a balance to be struck between protecting children from exposure to conflict whilst at the same time empowering them to grow into independent, well rounded, young people.

Litigation between separated parents regarding their care and other arrangements frequently brings these competing demands into sharp focus.

Although it is the children who are often the subject of the litigation, their parents are the protagonists, and in these high conflict situations, each parent will advocate their own different, but nevertheless heartfelt, view as to what is in the best interests of their children. As a result, the legal process offers parents – not children – the loudest voice.

Whilst there is a statutory obligation for children's wishes and feelings to be ascertained, the mechanism is rarely satisfactory from either the parents' or children's perspectives. Parental desire to protect children from conflict is matched by an understandable desire on the part of their children not to take sides in their parents' dispute.

At Mishcon de Reya we have long held the view that non-legal therapeutic interventions offer a far better prospect than litigation to resolve conflict. Parents need help to find enduring solutions to issues concerning their children, and children can better advocate their wishes and feelings once they have a fuller understanding of their legal and non-legal rights.

It is for these reasons we have created a ground-breaking initiative with the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships ("TCCR") and have also worked with the Southbank Centre to develop the WHY? (What's happening for the Young?) Festival.

The referral relationship that we have entered into with the TCCR is designed to support parents to make positive choices enabling them to successfully co-parent following divorce or separation. The service will last for six months and will, we hope, act as an advocacy case study for policy makers and be rolled out more widely to other law firms. Encouraging and facilitating others to adopt similar initiatives is a key goal for both Mishcon and the TCCR.

The WHY? Festival at the Southbank Centre runs from 23 to 26 October and will provide a forum for children, young people and adults to debate, probe and question ideas around children’s rights and raise awareness. It will present three days of talks and debates, performances, free events and opportunities to participate, featuring contributions from children and young people, as well as artists, teachers, policy makers, parents, lawyers, psychologists and civil servants.

Our objective with both initiatives is to put children – specifically their wishes, needs and wellbeing – at the forefront during parental disputes and separation. As a nation, we rarely consult children on issues that impact, shape and influence their lives. As a Firm, we believe it's important to lead a national debate about this critical issue.